The wisdom that Young Goodman Brown gains, when he's off in the woods, is the belief that the townsfolk he thought were virtuous are in fact hypocrites and deceivers in league with the devil.
Young Goodman Brown, first published in New-England Magazine, VIII (April, 1835), is one of Hawthornes enduring classic.
For one thing, there's very little to indicate that Goodman Brown's journey is specifically sexual (Freudians will disagree, but I remain unconvinced), and I feel that Hawthorn's concerns were much more akin to hypocrisy and false expectations we have, and how we thus betray ourselves. Of course, we can never anticipate the actual consequences, and that's why we are so easily tempted, and that is one of the things Hawthorne does such an amazing job of exploring here.
The forest in this tale can be seen as the uncivilized, darkness, the unconscious part of the mind, the socially unacceptable. Finally, convinced that all those whom he most admires, including his beloved wife Faith, are congregated for a Black Mass in the heart of the forest, Goodman seems to capitulate to the forces of darkness, although the episode ends ambiguously, suggesting that it may all have been a dream. Or is this a fable to suggest that all people project outward acceptable selves that hide what is evil inside them?
for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
I know people are always arguing over the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL--or at least they used to. So, I would like to submit this story as THE Great American Short Story. It just happens to be set in America, and in its embryonic state---that's what makes it such a great choice as a representation of the uniquely American mindset, capturing all our contradictions at their ancient roots. I used to hate this story, and all Hawthorne, mostly because it was about the Puritans. it takes place in the dark woods!
Hawthorne anonymously published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828. His work is considered part of the Romantic movement and includes novels, short stories, and a biography of his friend, the United States President Franklin Pierce.